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Products > Kniphofia thomsonii
Kniphofia thomsonii - Alpine Poker
Image of Kniphofia thomsonii
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Perennial
Family: Asphodelaceae (~Liliaceae)
Origin: Africa, Central (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Apricot
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: Kniphofia thomsonii var. snow
Height: 3-5 feet
Width: 2-4 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
Kniphofia thomsonii (Alpine Poker) - This attractive evergreen perennial is an East African species of Kniphofia that occurs up to about 13,000 ft on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is the only alpine growing plant in the genus and is also the only tropical species of Kniphofia widely cultivated. Kniphofia thomsonii leaves that are 2 to 3 feet tall with inflorescence spike reaching to 5 ft tall and, unlike the typical clumping habit of most other Kniphofia, it spreads wide on short rhizomes to become a patch several feet wide. The narrow keel-shaped leaves are a glaucous blue green and the variously shades of inch long orange flowers, from a dark orange-red in bud to a pale tangerine color at maturity, are produced through much of the year with a peak in spring but seemingly never out of bloom here in Santa Barbara. These flowers are reminiscent more of an aloe in that they are widely scattered (lax) on the last 18 inches of the 3 to 5 foot inflorescence. Plant in full to part sun where it favors a rich damp soil, but can also grow in moderately dry situations so long as it gets some summer irrigation. Reported as hardy to around 0-5F and useful in USDA Zone 7 and above. The native range of this species is northern Tanzania and the highlands of Kenya into Uganda and Zaire. The name Kniphofia honors Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704 -1763), a German physician and botanist. This plant was described by the English botanist John Gilbert Baker in 1885 as Kniphofia thomsonii to honor the collector that sent the plant collected on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to Baker at Kew. Baker only listed this collector with the surname of "Thomson", but it is a fair bet that it was likely Harry Thomson, who the year prior in 1884 led the Royal Geographic Society & British Association expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro. We received this plant in June 2000 from Barry Glick of Sunshine Farm & Gardens, who had received it 10 years earlier labeled Kniphofia thomsonii var. snowdenii from the Alpine Garden Society Seed Exchange in the United Kingdom. Since that time it has been determined that this plant is actually the plant originally described by Baker in 1885 as Kniphofia thomsonii var. thomsonii and not the variety snowdenii. John Grimshaw, garden writer and Director of Yorkshire Arboretum wrote about this confusion in the Alpine List in 1996, noting then that the plant long grown as Kniphofia thomsonii var. snowdenii was actually Kniphofia thomsonii and that true var. snowdenii was a more tender plant that had distinctly pubescent flowers, which the plants we grow do not have. This observation was also expressed by Robert Grant-Downton in 1997 in "Notes on Kniphofia thomsonii in cultivation and in the wild" in The New Plantsman 4(3): 148156, noting that "Plants called K. snowdenii or var. snowdenii in cultivation today are usually found in fact to be var. thomsonii". Other previously names used for this taxa include K. goetzei Engl., K. rogersii Bruce and K. subalpina Chiov.. We have offered this great plant continually since first selling it in 2001. 

This information about Kniphofia thomsonii displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.